Zoning board approves wind farm exception

     A new wind farm is one step closer to being built north of Buffalo Center, as the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Adjustment approved special exception permit for EDF Renewables at a September 18 meeting at the Heritage Town Center.

     A large crowd came out to provide input ahead of the board’s vote, with many people voicing concerns about the project.

     Zoning Administrator Matt Duve explained that an ordinance passed in 2001 allows wind farms in Winnebago County under a special exception permit. He says his job and the board’s job was to put together a resolution for a permit that incorporates what the county has learned from past wind farm projects, as well as public input. He says it took more than six months of work to put together a five-page resolution that he thinks is fair to everyone. He says the requirements are well above what was approved for previous wind farms in the county.

     James Scott, project development manager with EDF, says his company is looking to build a 200 megawatt wind farm in Winnebago and Kossuth Counties. In Winnebago County, they’re looking to install about 30 turbines, with most of those going north of Buffalo Center around Rake. The wind farm will be owned by Alliant Energy, which also sent representatives to the meeting.

     Scott says they’re working with some of the most rigorous setbacks in the country due to Kossuth County’s ordinance for wind farms, and Duve says he incorporated those same setbacks for the special exception in Winnebago County. The setbacks determine how far a wind turbine must be placed away from things like buildings, roads and other properties. Scott says setbacks for this project include 1,600 feet from homes and 600 feet from property lines.

     “We think we’re designing a project that is best in class,” said Scott. He says EDF wants to maintain quality of life for the people in the county, and the project will provide additional tax revenue, as well as revenue for participating landowners. He said they also offer a “good neighbor” program that provides payments to non-participating landowners who are adjacent to properties with wind turbines.

     Scott estimates the project will result in about $300,000 to $400,000 in annual property tax revenue for Winnebago County.

     See full story in the September 26 edition of the Tribune.